So, you’re moving to Mexico and thinking about how you’ll handle your healthcare. The country is known for its outstanding medical care, but what about insurance? Health insurance in Mexico for expats is essential.
Just because medical care is more affordable in Mexico doesn’t mean you should opt to pay out of pocket. It can still add up quickly and demolish your bank account. Therefore, you need to have your belt and suspenders on when taking care of your health and your bank account. And health insurance does just that.
This article breaks down the different types of health insurance in Mexico so you can decide what’s best for you.
Let’s hop to it.
Do you Need Health Insurance in Mexico if you’re an Expat?
Yes, yes, and yes.
If you are moving to Mexico for work or on a temporary or permanent visa, the answer is yes.
If you want access to superb healthcare and the hospitals of your choice, it makes no sense to go without it. Same goes for any country you are an expat in. Otherwise, just like in the US, you’ll have to pay out of pocket.
And although medical treatment may not be as expensive as it is in the US, paying out of pocket for something tragic or drastic is probably not feasible. Depending on the situation, it could still be tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. So why not protect yourself from being injured or sick and broke?
Get health insurance in Mexico for expats. Enough said.
Understanding Mexico’s Insurance Systems
There is a three-tier system in Mexico.
- INSABI or Instituto de Salud para el Bienestar (Institute of Health for Wellbeing)
- IMSS or Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (Mexican Institute of Social Security)
- Private health insurance (local and international plans)
INSABI and IMSS are public health insurance systems you must qualify for through the Mexican government.
Expats can have any of the above options, but they all come with pros and cons.
Let’s dig deeper into all three tiers.
Mexico Health Insurance Options for Expats
INSABI is the lowest tier and primarily for unemployed Mexicans and people who can’t afford other options. It basically gives locals access to free public healthcare.
Because the plan is primarily for Mexicans, it’s not easy for expats to enroll. In addition, it doesn’t cover all conditions and doesn’t cover 100% of others.
Also, the quality of care may not be up to the standards you are used to—think large rooms with lots of patients, no privacy and in some cases, you’ll need to have friends or family help with your care. Not to mention the nurses and doctors don’t necessarily speak English.
For those reasons and more, INSABI is definitely not the best option if you can avoid it.
IMSS is the middle tier and is a social security program for Mexicans and expats.
If you are an expat and employed by a Mexican company, enrolling in the IMSS program is required. Your company will apply for you and deduct a small amount of your salary monthly to contribute to the IMSS program on your behalf.
You’ll receive health coverage through IMSS, but they do not cover certain pre-existing conditions which are listed on the IMSS website.
If you are unable to work because you’re ill or in an accident, you’ll receive some benefits to make life a little easier.
Some medications will be free, but only those covered by IMSS, and they are usually generic.
Retirees and Unemployed Expats
Just because you aren’t working doesn’t mean you can’t apply for the IMSS plan. You just need to apply, but you’ll need to speak Spanish or have a translator.
Also, the plan gives preference to people who are enrolled in the IMSS program through an employer. As a retiree, you’ll be at the bottom of the totem pole.
Cost of IMSS Health Insurance in Mexico for Expats
The cost depends mostly upon your age, but of course, there are those pre-existing conditions, restrictions, and limitations. The price can be anywhere from USD$200-600 per year.
The good news is there is no age cap on the IMSS plan. It doesn’t matter if you are 103 as long as you are a resident.
Every February, the cost of your IMSS coverage will be reevaluated and adjusted.
So, What’s the Catch?
So, this IMSS plan sounds perfect, right? Almost too good to be true.
But there are a few asterisks…
- You can’t choose your doctor, clinic, or hospital. Once your application is approved, they will inform you where to go for medical care. That means your health care could be fab or not so much. It all depends on where you live and how good the assigned clinic/doctor/hospital really is.
- Not all the doctors and IMSS employees speak English. So, it’s best to have a friend or translator who can help.
- The waiting time for surgery could be a few months. Longer if it’s not considered an emergency. So, things like a knee or hip replacement could take months.
- Depending on the hospital you are admitted to, you may need to bring some amenities for your comfort.
In general, the hospitals connected to the IMSS plans are not the same as the private hospitals, and the level of service may not be what you are used to.
So, a lot of expats and Mexicans have IMSS coverage and private insurance to make sure they get the very best medical care Mexico has to offer.
- Private Health Insurance
Private insurance provides the best medical insurance for expats in Mexico. This is the top tier.
There are two options: local and international.
The benefits of private insurance over the other two options are:
- You can choose your clinics, doctors, and hospitals
- You can go to private hospitals, which are generally a better quality
- You can get English speaking doctors
- You’ll have shorter wait times
Local Private Health Insurance
The benefit of buying a local health insurance policy from a company in Mexico is that it’s usually cheaper than an international plan. However, you will only be covered in Mexico. So, if you plan to travel outside of Mexico, you’ll need travel insurance or some plan to cover you where you are going.
International Private Health Insurance
The major difference between local and international health insurance is that an international policy will cover you… well… internationally. It means you can fly home and get medical care there if you want to. And if you are a traveler, you’ll have coverage globally.
The best health insurance for expats in Mexico is also the most expensive option.
It is more expensive than a local policy, but if you plan to travel or leave Mexico for an extended time, it’s worth it. Plus, any new health problems that have arisen in Mexico won’t be considered a pre-existing condition since you won’t have to reapply when you go home.
International insurance companies like Cigna Global, IMG and GeoBlue are all very reputable. You can start your research by going to International Citizens Insurance or ExpatDen. They compare insurance plans online so you can figure out how much private health insurance costs in Mexico.
Medical Evacuation from Mexico
If you are an American expat living in Mexico and have insurance coverage back home, you might want to think about a medical evacuation policy. A med-evac policy will fly you home quickly if you are in an accident or have a severe or catastrophic health scare while in Mexico.
These policies only cover the evacuation costs, and you can only use them in critical cases and emergencies.
Commercial airlines won’t allow you to fly if you are in serious condition. Therefore, if going home is essential to your care plan, a medical evacuation policy is essential. International healthcare policies usually don’t account for your transportation to another country.
When looking into a medical evacuation policy, make sure they will fly you to the hospital of your choice. Not just any hospital over the border.
The Final Bill
At the end of the day, having some sort of expat insurance in Mexico just makes sense. The old adage of better safe than sorry applies to your health. And paying for healthcare out of pocket, no matter how stuffed those pockets are, just isn’t a wise investment in yourself.
Want to learn more about living and retiring in Mexico? Check out all our work and retirement topics here, or join us for our Move to Mexico YouTube LIVE series where realtors and expats talk about what life is really like in Cabo San Lucas, Playa Del Carmen, San Miguel de Allende, and Puerto Vallarta.
Every Sunday in March 2022 at 1pm ET/ 10am PT on Modern Aging’s YouTube Channel!
March 6, 2022 – Cabo San Lucas
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